Editor’s Note: With breaking news that Daft Punk are hanging up their helmets, we’re revisiting several of our relevant features. That includes Lior Phillips’ ambitious look at Daft Punk’s debut 1997 album, Homework, in which she examines, song by song, both the group’s influences and how they impacted the music that followed. This crash course in Daft Punk’s Homework was originally published as an anniversary piece in January 2017.
Homework will be playing as my soul glides into the ether.
These days, Daft Punk announce their superhuman abilities almost immediately — some might argue they’re more ubiquitous for their robotic guise over their actual music — but 20 years ago, when they released their sublime debut album, Homework, they were merely two French tricksters named Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. At the time, they had begun wearing masks to produce an ego-less, universal presence for dance music — a language that could exist without signifiers, if you will — though decidedly not the chromed helmets of today. Rather than mechanic flourishes on the album art, they opted for simple satin.
Though the packaging has ramped up to surreal new heights of whimsy and wonder, it’s now remarkable to see just how much of Daft Punk’s sound has crystallized over the past two decades. Of course, it helps that they chose some valuable inspirational signposts in house, techno, G-funk, and hip-hop. Even so, the two producers were only 22 years old, an incredibly early age given the clarity and grace they had exuded in this complete and timeless masterpiece. In fact, it’s become more or less an instruction manual for current would-be producers, namely how it runs through genres as though they were hyperactive cartoon characters.
For that reason, the album’s connections to the past and influence on the future can be viewed much more clearly. Granted, the genres they twirled into Homework were previously indebted to sampling and remixing, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg to this album. What’s far more intriguing is the matter bubbling underneath, which is why we’ve gone ahead and dismantled each of the album’s 16 tracks piece by piece, searching for particular influences that they might have had and uncovering which artists might have been influenced. It’s an around-the-world study of Daft Punk, and one that requires zero airfare and zero SkyMiles. Dancing shoes are optional.